An engagement shoot: what is it and do I need it? Is it just another suggested 'extra' that means adding additional expense to the already bulging list of wedding costs? Perhaps you've heard of friends or family having a pre-wedding shoot and maybe some confusion crept in between the different names. Are engagement shoots and pre-wedding shoots the same thing?
This post is intended to clear the confusion between names, explore why a pre-wedding shoot is so invaluable and reassure you that it's not going to break the bank.
Engagement shoots VS Pre-wedding shoots.
Are they the same thing - I would say yes, they are the same. Through my experience of the UK wedding industry and our wedding traditions the terms are interchangeable and whether it is a photographer or a couple talking about it - engagement shoots and pre-wedding shoots are the same thing. Often location based and informal in style they are a photoshoot experience that usually takes place anywhere from six weeks to six months before the wedding.
However, looking more widely across the wedding industry towards international markets there are clear distinctions between the two. In the sense of taking the opportunity to have photos taken together prior to the wedding they are the same, however the nature of the two shoots becomes very different. The engagement shoot is the more informal relaxed experience we know and love here in the UK. Whereas the pre-wedding shoot is a much more glamorous affair where the couple have additional photos taken together in their wedding dress and formalwear before the wedding. Yes, culturally it may sound strange to us but it's a huge emerging market overseas. Pre-wedding shoots are typically (and understandably) more expensive than the traditional engagement shoot and are often seen as more of a prestige event with luxurious backdrops, props and even cars.
For the purposes of the rest of this post - I'll be treating engagement shoots and pre-wedding shoots as the same thing. That's how I know it and how my clients know it. So now we know the terms, let's talk about why an engagement shoot is so invaluable as part of your wedding story.
Price VS Value.
First off, booking one. Here I want to stress that this isn't an attempt to reel in prospective brides and grooms into paying additional fees on top of their wedding photography - all my packages include a pre-wedding shoot. I want my packages to include them because as a photographer I recognise the value in them with my clients: the relationship it allows me to build with them, the trust and ease of taking photos together and creating that overall sense of an experience they have with me as their photographer. As it's outside of the timings and pressure of the big day I also get to see a different side to them, talk with them more and generally get to know them better all whilst capturing a great set of images that will complement their wedding photos.
I include an engagement shoot in all my packages but not all photographers do. If the package you want doesn't include one, dont worry! Even if you're photographer doesn't include them you can usually book one for less than £200. Some photographers also offer a deal if you book them for your wedding day after having an engagement shoot with them. In either case the value of that ongoing contact, client experience and the photographic journey before and during your wedding day definitely outweighs the cost of the shoot in the first place.
Get use to being infront of the camera
This is one of the biggest areas where I see the value in having an engagement shoot, and honestly what made me include one in all my packages.
We all take photos everyday, whether on a mobile device or professionally, yet many of us don't actually like having our own photo taken and no matter how many filters we flick through or times we re-take the image we still feel that we don't look right, we criticise our smile or convince ourselves the image just doesn't look good. It's an outlook people openly admit during photoshoots: either not liking having their photo taken or feeling they just don't look good in photos anyway.
The engagement shoot is a fantastic way to explore this with your photographer: they can help you to relax and actually enjoy the process of having your photos taken. A change in attitude that will carry through to the wedding day where you'll feel much more at ease.
Of course, it's not always about overcoming a heavily critical mindset, more often than not it's simply about shaking off the nerves of being infront of the camera in the first place. My biggest tip is that you don't have to act any differently to camera - just be yourselves! You shouldn't expect to be constantly staring into the camera and smiling until your cheeks start to ache. Laugh, chat, joke around, do whatever you want that expresses your personality as a couple.
Get to know each other
You may be thinking - we're getting married of course we know each other. But taking photographs together is a really important part of your identity as a couple and creates memories that strengthen your bond together. Plus you'd be surprised how many times people say 'I never knew we could look so great in photos'. But realistically, how often do you really have the opportunity to take time out just to take photos of each other - and let's be honest most of us aren't typically extroverted with this custom to begin with.
It's a fun, relaxed yet personal experience and creates a huge foundation for your wedding day where you can just settle into being beside each other without thinking you have to act or pose dramatically because you're in your dress and suit. It helps you to relax and feel comfortable within your immediate space on the day when so much is happening all around you.
Just as importantly here is the opportunity to get to know your photographer more: their thought process, their creative eye, how they build the images with you. It saturates a huge amount of wedding blogs but you really will spend the day together and having the opportunity to experience how your photographer shoots and how they collaborate with the two of you is invaluable. It builds up the relationship, the enjoyment of shooting and your trust in their judgment when they talk through an idea for a photo that prior to the shoot you would have thought - what!?
A chance to play, explore and enjoy
A pre-wedding shoot is a fantastic opportunity to go somewhere or try something completely different to what you have planned for your wedding day. You might want to go somewhere more remote and off the beaten track or doing something urban in the middle of a busy city. You may want to hold the shoot at a lake where you guys dive in or add a striking use of colour with smoke bombs. The possibilities really are endless and the freedom to do something totally different is a great opportunity to explore whether its something crazy or somewhere alternative.
Of course you may wish to incorporate elements of your wedding into the shoot, whether it be the particular style you have chosen or colour coordinating your outfits to incorporate the key colour of your wedding theme. It may be the case that you want to have your pre-wedding shoot at a certain time of the year or during a particular season - either to match your wedding or to achieve a different set of images altogether.
Photos with a purpose
Leading on from choosing the location and style of your pre-wedding shoot you may want to take the opportunity to capture particular photos to use for a more functional purpose, such as a creative shot to use for your save the date cards or a showcase shot you want printing on a bigger scale for a wedding signing frame.
Not everyone chooses to have these elements of course but nonetheless it's worth considering the images you want so that you can shoot with a purpose to give your wedding planning some personal touches.
An event in itself
Of course, the perfect reason to have a pre-wedding shoot is the simple fact that you are getting married and that deserves celebrating, so celebrate it every way you can! A photoshoot for just the two of you will mark that special moment in your lives when you got engaged and will capture the emotions and the excitement you were both feeling at that time. It will form the start of an ongoing history of memories and images that will build and grow during the whole experience of your wedding and as you continue married life together. So make a celebratory toast right from the start and include a pre-wedding shoot in your wedding journey, get to know your photographer and above all feel confident about your photos.